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back with a vengeance


On forum: 07/31/2003
Messages: 1729

Grigory awoke with a start. He had heard a noise, amplified and distorted by sleep into a sound effect from an old movie he once saw. He sat up and froze, holding his breath, listening intently, his eyes frantic, desperately searching for any danger or the source of the sound. Nothing. The third floor room where he had spent the night was empty, just plaster and broken glass, no furniture: likely the owner’s final desperate attempt to salvage a small scrap of his old life, before the zone took over.

He sat there for several minutes, barely breathing, as still as stone. A few days ago he would have been asleep again by now, but here, deeper in the zone, he knew better than that. Any noise, no matter how slight or imagined, demanded attention, if you wanted to stay alive for long.

A movement caught his eye, on the roof of a building several blocks away; too far to see whether it was a man, or a beast, or a piece of cloth caught by the breeze. He realised his rifle was already in his hand, slowly he reached into his pack for a clip, his eyes never leaving the rooftop. There was a tiny flash, like a spark, then a sharp crack and a dull thud as a bullet pierced the window and punctured his left bicep. A sniper. He dived to the right, dragging his pack with him, and came to a stop crouched behind a wall, the staircase leading down behind him. The reflex had caused him to roll over on his arm and he grasped it in pain. He pulled out a magazine and began to load his rifle, clenching his teeth, a pool of blood spreading down his sleeve. He waited, listening for a moment, deciding which way to retreat.

There was a pounding noise, flesh on glass. Mutants, or worse, trying to get in downstairs. He had jammed the door quite well the night before, with debris and anything he could find, but it wouldn’t hold indefinitely.

He turned quickly, stumbling down the stairs to the second floor, clumsily strapping on his pack as he went, hanging the rifle on his back and readying his machine gun instead. There was a way out to the back of the building, through an old warehouse. He ran through several rooms, jumping rubble and slipping through doorways, making as little noise as possible. He came to an old staircase, rust clung to the railings and a number of the steps were loose or missing, he could see the warehouse beyond, through a large hole where a wall should have been, escape was near. He hurried down, turning a corner as he reached the bottom, and stopped dead.

The morning sunlight filled the warehouse before him, streaming though the cracked windows and broken wall panels. To the left was dark, in shadow a small door leading to the street. To the right most of the building had collapsed and he could see the forest beyond. Directly ahead was a tangle of twisted metal beams, dust hung in the air and the ground had been torn apart. His momentum caused him to stumble half a step before he stopped. Something pulled at him slightly, an invisible force reaching for him: a gravity concentration anomaly. He was standing right on the edge where its effects were lessened. He carefully began to step back but the gravity had already lifted him off the ground. Stretching his leg back he tried desperately to obtain any sort of foothold but it only found loose stones and debris.

In his panic he had released his grip on the machine gun, and now it floated gently forward, spinning slightly in shifting directions. He calmed for a moment watching it, mystified. It accelerated, all of a sudden thrown diagonally into the air, hitting the high ceiling and clattering to the floor on the left side of the room. It lay there, bent almost at right angles.

He struggled again, panicked by the display, but it was no use, the anomaly had him. There was a banging on the door to the street; someone had heard the noise. He floated, arms outstretched, feeling the forces pulling on him, his chest was aching, his muscles tightened. The door burst open and a number of mutants scrambled inside, they scanned the room catching sight of him hanging there and stopped and stared in wonder. There was a sudden and unbearable stab of pain as the wound on his arm began to tear. His vision blurred and there was a ringing in his ears. He shut his eyes; this was it, the end.

A sound came, muffled in his head. A throbbing that didn’t match the pain. He opened his eyes and the sound became clearer, a helicopter, hovering above the collapsed end of the warehouse. The army, or military stalkers, no doubt after the mutants. It fired: a single rocket, from under the small wing, that sped across the far side of the room, leaving behind a light trail of smoke. But as it passed Grigory it slowed, changing direction and spinning erratically. The metal casing began to twist and bend, and there was a blinding flash as it detonated. The building was shaken; beams and corrugated iron fell from the ceiling and debris flew in all directions. Fire roared towards him and he blacked out.

He was standing in a vast field, full of bright red flowers, surrounded by a rotting wooden fence. He was waiting for someone, but he couldn’t remember whom. He kept looking over at the old gate to see if they had arrived, but nobody came. A dream, not dead?

Grigory awoke with a start. He instinctively sat up, the piece of corrugated iron that was covering him slipped down and he pushed it to the side. He looked around and listened, nothing, there was no sign of the Helicopter. The explosion had knocked him back, out of reach of the anomaly. By the angle of the shadows he’d probably been unconscious for at least 6 hours. Midday. His body ached from lying on the sharp ground and his face was burned, but not badly, his suit had protected him from the explosion. He felt a pain in his leg and looked down to see a sharp piece of shrapnel sticking into his thigh. Grinding his teeth, he pulled it out and thew it aside, red blood began to seep from the wound. He withdrew a roll of bandage from his pack and bound his leg. He would tend to it properly later, when he returned to the outskirts. He looked down at his arm, he’d been lying on it since he passed out and the pressure had reduced the bleeding. He touched it delicately; the bullet must have passed through. He bandaged it as best he could and stood up.

Over by the door lay several mutant carcasses, the nearby wall panels were riddled with bullet holes. One of the mutants twitched, but didn’t move again. Grigory gathered his things and headed back into the building the way he came.

He climbed painfully back to the third floor room where he had spent the night. The sniper was long gone. He stood at the window a while looking out. He gazed at the buildings, and the silent mountains beyond. The bright sunlight was broken by the dark shadows of clouds that mottled the landscape, dried leaves danced on the wind, a storm was coming.
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